07/14/2010 6:38PM

Nacho Friend unlikely for Haskell


OCEANPORT, N.J. – Nacho Friend earned an invitation to the $1 million Haskell with his second-place finish last weekend in the Long Branch Stakes.

After studying the likely lineup for the Grade 1 Haskell for 3-year-olds on Aug. 1 at Monmouth Park, trainer Kelly Breen might respectfully decline the offer.

Expected runners in the biggest race of the meet include Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky, and Trappe Shot, who beat Nacho Friend by 2 1/2 lengths in the Long Branch.

“It’s a small option,” Breen said of the Haskell. “If everyone who says they are coming do come, it might be an opportunity for us to pick up the pieces somewhere else. We’re going to keep our eyes open as to other races and who is going where, before we see what we’re doing.”

Nacho Friend earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Long Branch, his first race wearing blinkers. It was the colt’s best effort since a first-level allowance win at Pimlico on April 29.

Although the Long Branch had only four runners, Nacho Friend wound up with a wide trip. He ranged into contention on the final turn but could not reel in the promising Trappe Shot.

“We had the worst of the race,” Breen said. “The horse that won the race looks to have a nice future ahead of him. We got a great Beyer number. Maybe Secretariat would have won going wide all the way around, but not Nacho Friend.”

Southern Ridge eyes Ohio Derby

Southern Ridge, third in the Long Branch after setting the pace, could be headed to the Ohio Derby on July 31.

“He came out of the race really good,” trainer Pat McBurney said. “The Ohio Derby is being kicked around, or we could just stay home here. After we have him back on the track four or five days, we’ll see how we feel about Ohio.”

The Long Branch didn’t unfold according to plan when Southern Ridge, making only his third career start, wound up on the lead with Carlos Marquez Jr. aboard.

“We didn’t want to be there,” McBurney said. “The one post was the worst he could get.”

A stumble at the break didn’t help.

“Carlos said once he stumbled, he got himself back up and took off,” McBurney said. “From there, he had his right ear cocked back, listening to the horses behind him. Carlos went wide on the first turn, hoping somebody would come up inside and take the lead. Instead, everyone stayed outside of us.”

Eventually, Trappe Shot took that inside route on his way to the win.

“He is still a green horse and he got jostled a little bit turning for home and he got a little intimidated by everything,” McBurney said. “Overall, it was a good experience for him.”

Moneigh Lisa still improving

Things are falling nicely into place for trainer Jane Cibelli who got her first stakes win of the meet last weekend when Moneigh Lisa captured the Spruce Fir Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares.

The good news continued with Chirac, the star of the stable, who is finally back at the barn to resume serious training.

Moneigh Lisa was a pleasant surprise at 15-1 in the Spruce Fir, at a mile and 70 yards. Moneigh Lisa, a 4-year-old had never run beyond six furlongs in 16 previous starts. Having won a second-level New Jersey-bred allowance earlier in the meet, Moneigh Lisa wasn’t eligible to much unless she ventured into open company.

“She’s obviously a different horse than what she was last year,” Cibelli said. “They were mostly problems of immaturity. We gave her the winter off, and she’s improved immensely. She grew up and she’s a completely different horse that is getting better and better.”

The Spruce Fir was a distance experiment that panned out.

“There was reason to think she would go long,” Cibelli said. “She closes going short, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will get two turns. It was a question of the a-other-than open or do we try the stakes? We would have hated to run in the a-other-than going long and find out we should have run in the stakes.”

Moneigh Lisa will likely next face open company going long in a second-level allowance followed by another New Jersey-bred stakes later in the year.

As for Chirac, his first breeze since suffering a soft-tissue injury following last year’s victory in the Grade 3 Iselin Stakes last August could come next week.

“He’s been training on a farm,” Cibelli said. “We’ll start getting him ready again. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t come back.”

Chirac was one of the stars of the 2009 Monmouth meet. In addition to the Iselin, Chirac also captured the Skip Away Stakes and a fourth-level allowance.

“With the injury, we decided we weren’t going to push him,” Cibelli said. “I don’t know what happened. It turned into more time that we thought. It didn’t really heal up properly but in the last three months, it took a turn for the better.”

There is no target for a return, other than to get Chirac back to the races sometime later this year before a winter campaign at Gulfstream Park.

“He came back to the barn the day that Moneigh Lisa won,” Cibelli said. “I said ‘Wow, it doesn’t get much better than this!”